The day light is beginning to noticeably lengthen. It was just a few seconds longer the day after December 21st, discernible by scientific instruments alone. By the 25th you and I can perceive it. On January 1st, even those who take little note of these sorts of things are able to observe that the sun has risen higher in the sky and there is more day light. Hurrah! This is reason to celebrate and ancient civilizations celebrated the New Year anywhere from December 25th to April 1st (some wanted to wait for buds on the trees).
We don’t really know the actual date of the birth of Jesus. There is some evidence in the birth narratives that suggests they thought it was in the springtime. The early Church settled on December 25th because it was a time when some other cultures celebrated the Sun, the light of the world and, after all, Jesus is the Son of God and the true Light of the world.
The actual date wasn’t an issue for the early Church. What mattered to them was that the birth of Jesus (the Incarnation of God) be celebrated at some time during the year. The time when other cultures celebrate the sun seemed as good a time as any. Besides, it wasn’t his birth that mattered, it was all that he stood for, his whole life (his birth, passion, death, resurrection and ascension). All that he taught, all that he did throughout his life is what mattered and is what we celebrate.
And frankly, the life of Jesus Christ only matters if it impacts our lives. We cannot help but be changed by his life. We cannot help but be changed by the extraordinary love God has made know to the world by the birth of Jesus. Happy New Year!